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Using quotations from at least three written texts (ancient and/or modern), argue the case for or against the view that only Christian believers can or should be theologians.

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Using quotations from at least three written texts (ancient and/or modern), argue the case for or against the view that only Christian believers can or should be theologians Before attempting to answer this question, one must define some principles of the nature of Christian theology. It is obvious that anyone may create a theology based purely on ideas from one's own imagination, with no boundaries or guidelines to it. Such a theology may be creative, intelligent, and reasonable, but could not be classed as Christian theology. Something must act as a rule and a guard, lest the Christian religion break down into nothing more than dispersed, individual, self-made theologies. Theology in a Christian context must and does find its foundation in Scripture, "the supreme authority to life and thought" (Vanhoozer 1998, p. 380). Now that the thing that is to be interpreted in the building of Christian theology has been identified as Scripture, one may ask the question of who is able and qualified to interpret it. In 1860, Benjamin Jowett published his essay, "On the Interpretation of Scripture". He argued that the Bible should be regarded as any other ancient collections of literature, using tools of literary and historical scholarship. He implied that a critic who stands apart from traditional beliefs and practices is in a better position to find the true meaning of the text, as these traditions had obscured their true meaning. ...read more.


Therefore: A valid interpreter of a text... is that person... who assumes the role "required" as it were, by a given text - who becomes the reader "implied" or called for by that very text. And such a one is formed to assume that role by a community, a community which has assumed that role itself. (Voelz 1995, 1997, p. 220) This, however, does not make every Christian community's interpretation infallible, because humans err; thus different Christian communities often disagree on the interpretation of certain parts of Scripture. But, as the Church is a community within which these documents were produced, received, and preserved, Vanhoozer states: [The] Bible is more likely to be misunderstood by an unbelieving and unaffiliated individual than by a believing and practising member of the church. (Vanhoozer 1998, p. 378) In the case of the New Testament, the books were produced, received, and preserved by the Christian community, and following Voelz's argument, one has to be within a Christian community, and taught to read Scripture by that community, to be able to correctly interpret the New Testament. The issue of the interpretation of the Old Testament is one that is referred to in the New Testament. Speaking of the reading of Scripture by the Jews: Yes, to this day, whenever Moses is read a veil lies over their hearts. ...read more.


If in these lie their resources, before they can use them, it ought to be clearly seen to whom belongs the possession of the Scriptures, that none may be admitted to the use thereof who has no title at all to the privilege. (Roberts & Donaldson 1994, 1995, Vol. 1 p.250 -Chapter XV of On Prescription Against Heretics. See also: chapters XVI, XVII, XVIII, XIX pp. 250-252) Tertullian's belief was that the Scriptures were the property of the Christian Church alone, and not to be handled by those outside of it. Irenaeus, Bishop of Lyons, against the Valentinians, wrote: [They] endeavour to adapt with an air of probability to their own peculiar assertions the parables of the Lord, the sayings of the prophets, and the words of the apostles, in order that their scheme may not seem altogether without support. In doing so, however, they disregard the order and the connection of the Scriptures, and so far as in them lies, dismember and destroy the truth. By transferring passages, and dressing them up anew, and making one thing out of another, they succeed in deluding many through their wicked art in adapting the oracles of the Lord to their opinions. (Roberts & Donaldson 1994, 1995, Vol. 3. p. 326 -Chapter VIII of Against Heresies) In conclusion, there seem to be many problems opposing the idea of those outside of the Christian Church being theologians, not least the question of motive, as the early Church fathers addressed. For these reasons, I believe that theology is a matter only for those within the Church. ...read more.

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